“Hello Sam. Hello Sam.” Does he mean ‘Sam I am?’ You know, from Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel. “Do you mean Sam I am?” “Hello Sam.” Everyday by the beech tree near the cement court in the playground. “Hi Sam.” He knows my name isn’t Sam. I have an uncle named Sam, or rather, his nickname was Sam as given by army buddies. I don’t remember his real name, but it wasn’t even anything close to Sam. Adam Sails didn’t know my uncle Sam, so far as I knew, not even by his real name.
We liked to eat beech nuts, even Adam with his “Hi Sam.” Sometimes it was, “Hello Sam.” other times, “Hi Sam.” Perhaps he’ll correct me if I’m wrong about that part. Uncle Sam was always very relaxed and easy-going. Unfortunately he carried around a bit of a belly, but was still well into his 60’s when the final heart attack took him.
We also liked to make a whistle from acorn cupules, by holding it between thumbs and forefingers and blowing into it. Even Adam with his “Hello Sam” did this; the sound effect is sharper and louder than regular whistling. Adam would whistle then look at me, smile and say, “Sam”. He said the “Sam” part by dragging it out in two tones, but one long syllable, “Saaaam”. He said it in a voice not quite his own, although I can’t be entirely sure of that, because about all he ever said to me was “Hi Saaam”, or as I mentioned, “Hello Saaam” and sometimes, such as when we were whistling with acorns or eating beech nuts, just “Saaaam!”.
We knew we could eat acorns as well, and probably I tried one at some point. Native Americans sometimes ate acorns, storing them for when other foods were scarce. They could pulverize them, by which process leeches out tannins and makes them more palatable. We didn’t have time for this, and further perhaps didn’t really believe our teachers about eating acorns, despite our having watched squirrels eating them. Personally, of the things the native Potawatomi people liked to consume, chewing on sassafras roots was my favorite. So did Adam, I could tell by the way he said, “Hi Sam!” when I went to the woods at the side of the playground to find sassafras seedlings.
Mostly, we played the usual games, swingset, teeter-totter, tether-ball, climbing on monkey bars and so forth. We didn’t do this as much in sixth grade as in fifth, when Adam had transferred to my school mid-year. In sixth grade, we’d tend to stand around and watch the girls jump-rope and hopscotch or play more physical games like king-of-the-hill, wrestling challenges or chicken fights.
Adam lived several neighborhoods away from me and we didn’t have any outside school activities in common, so I didn’t see him all summer. The next school year, we had transferred over to the junior high building. He saw my on the walk way which went outside between two buildings. He tried it out, “Hi Saaam!” But it just didn’t fit any more with the older kids around, and us being older too. He wasn’t in any of my classes and we never spoke to one another again, although we’d occasionally catch each other’s eyes in a hallway and for a moment hear the inaudible greeting.
“The shadow of a gull
Glides silently across the dunes = = = =
the beech trunk is mottled
by the shadows of its leaves = = = =
flowers cast delicate patterns upon the earth . . .
Wherever there is light = = =
there are shadows = = = = =
that foreshorten with the rising sun
and lengthen as the sun nears
far horizons . . .
whatever it may be = = = =
projects its own . . .” Gwenn Frostic, Wisps of Mist